Cover Image: Northwind

Northwind

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Member Reviews

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for honest review. 

This took a bit to get into, but I really enjoyed this tale, loosely based on Gary Paulsen’s time on the PNW coast. I also love the whales.
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The last book from the amazing author Gary Paulsen. It's a middle grade adventure that will have you holding your breath all the way through and hits close to home with the recent pandemic.
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Northwind by Gary Paulsen; Farrar Straus Giroux, 256 pages ($17.99) Ages 10-14.

...

A boy paddles a dugout canoe alone, ever northward, along the Norway coast in some bygone era in this gripping and eloquent survival tale by Gary Paulsen, author of "Hatchet" and a master of this survival genre. It seems  fitting that this poetic narrative, in which a boy dreams of his dead mother and carves his experiences into a storyboard, should be the final work from the beloved author who died Oct. 13 at the age of 82.

 Leif, an orphan who has endured ill treatment as a "wharf rat" passed from  ship to ship, is stranded with a few others at a remote fishing camp when   cholera strikes and the last man standing sends him and a younger boy off to sea in a dugout canoe. Both boys fall ill; Leif survives to discover he has much to learn in this perilous world.

Paulsen waxes eloquent in describing the drifting wooden ship that brought the plague to the camp: "Meant but not meant, not planned to be there but there, sending its death stink, the stink from blood-soaked decks and rotted gore and rendered fat, boiled off small whales, seals, dolphins – anything alive that had fat on it and could be made dead and the fat cooked out – ahead of the ship like a silent, dirty scream of filth. But something else, too: the smell of dying, rotting men."

With the vivid detail readers loved in "Hatchet," in carefully crafted prose with a hypnotic cadence, Paulsen describes the making of a fishing spear, the spearing of the salmon, the building of a fire, the satisfaction of eating your fill, the nearly fatal failure to notice signs of the presence of bears, the beauty of whale music, the spiritual communion with orcas.

In paragraph upon paragraph he describes Leif learning to navigate the currents, the nuisance of defending his food from ravens and eagles, the hazards of whirlpools and leaping whales, the wonder of  sighting what at first appears to be a blue ship. Leif learns: ""pure raw hunger was the driving force of everything in nature. .... he decided he did not want only that in his life... did not want to be only hungry. Go north, be north, but see and be more than just what he shoved in his stomach." On this solo journey, the boy discovers "if you kept your mind open and aware and listened and smelled and watched, you learned."

Paulsen, who documented his lost childhood in his poignant 2021 memoir "Gone to the Woods," in an afterword says this book was inspired by tales of the sea told him by his Norwegian-born grandmother and by his own adventures sailing the coast of North America.
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As someone who was first introduced to Paulsen with his book Hatchet I can happily say that even with years between then and now his writing has withstood the test of time.
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I received an arc of this title from NetGalley for an honest review. I loved Gary Paulsen's books as a young reader but found this book hard to get into. I am going to try it on audio, but for now, it is a DNF.
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Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan Childrens for the review copy of Northwind by Gary Paulsen. This book was a must read for me simply because it was written by Gary Paulsen. It has a bit of a different meaning knowing it will be the last book he wrote. 

This book was described as Hatchet on the Northern sea, and it is fairly fitting. The main character, Leif, is adrift on the sea near Norway after a disease outbreak kills off the others from his island. The descriptions while he is on the raft of nature and its wonder are beautiful. The prose in much of this book felt poetic. 

I would be careful before putting this into the hands of a younger or sensitive reader. The descriptions of the disease and some of the peril Leif faces are quite gruesome and may be too much for some readers. Although I do not think this book is as good as some of Paulsen's other work, I do believe it would make a great addition the the classroom for students looking to fill the space left after reading Brian's adventures.
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Another excellent survival tale by Gary Paulsen.  When disease begins to quickly decimate their small community, our main character is quickly launched down the river with a younger companion who quickly succumbs to the disease.  Quite a few near death experiences and some outstanding writing about wilder life.  Totally recommend!
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I love Gray Paulsen's books. This one was no exception. It's a solid middle school read. Fans of his other books will gobble this one up.
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I love the way Gary Paulsen writes and this novel did not disappoint. The word that comes to mind, is magical.
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In the true spirit of Gary Paulsen we are given another Northwest survival story for the ages. Although this is middle grade I enjoyed it. Paulsen is beautifully descriptive which helps paint an easy picture of the story in my head. I feel that middle grade students, especially boys, would appreciate this one the most.
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I was both excited and sad to read Northwind. Excited for a new book from an author I recommend to students all the time and sad to know it is his last.  It is an historical fiction adventure, yet there is not as much action as other adventure books.  While I found the tale compelling, I fear my students will have trouble falling into this book as many will not have the background to relate to Leif's journey and the beginning of this book is so very sad - not so much what many of my students need right now..Even though very different, the Tom Banks movie "Cast Away" kept coming to mind as I read this - one person, all alone, trying to survive. While the plot seems to move slowly, the survival story is strong and Paulson's descriptions help you to be able to picture everything in your mind. I specially enjoyed reading Paulson's author notes about his connection to this story which made it seem to be a "full circle" way to end such an amazing career.
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I've loved Gary Paulsen's work since Hatchet, which I read when I was 9(?). I feel really honored to have had the chance to read his final book so close to his passing. I'll miss him, but this was a wonderful last memory.
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Gary Paulsen has written novels before that contain meditative sections of reverence to nature, speculations on life. But in Northwind he has elevated the inner musings of the central character almost to the point that they become not just thoughts, but nearly actions, plot. The lone, often treacherous journey of an orphan boy in a canoe is suited to the lyrical language and observations. As with Gone to the Woods, Paulsen seems at times to speak to a much more adult audience than to one middle- school-aged. But while the tension and action are subtle here, sensitive readers and Paulsen fans will appreciate this, his final book.
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A very compelling title, by a well-known author. This book shares life threatening dangers and adventure. It takes the reader to another place and time. A truly unique novel.
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Knowing that this is one of Paulsen's final books puts extra pressure on this narrative. We want it to be perfect. Of course it isn't but it is a solid read. While the heavily historic setting makes it a harder sell for some middle grade readers, it is very atmospheric. And it's about more than just the drive for survival. Leif spends much of his journey reflecting on his place in the world and what it means to truly live. For a kid into survival stories, this is worth a read. And for the adult who grew up on Hatchet, this book is a nicely contemplative bookend to Paulsen's career.
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Thank you Mac Kids Books for the gifted book that I read along with the library audio.

I really wanted to love this book. But I think it's just too literary for my taste. It is a middle grade survival story written in a very poetic way. Leif is an orphan, fleeing his disease stricken home where he never felt safe anyway. He takes off on a wooden canoe into a new life. He experiences nature in all her wonder. Birds, bears, and whales are all a part of his tale, and it is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Island of the Blue Dolphins or Alone by Megan E. Freeman which I read last year. However, unlike those two titles, I didn't feel as attached to Leif as a character. Overall I still think it's a stunning book, but just not in my wheelhouse.
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The cover of this theme driven novel says it all --- between the towering glacier cliffs which line sides of the fjord, is one solitary boy in his boat, proceeding in life.  Whereas Paulsen's “Hatchet” depicted a survival in the depths of woods, “Northwind” documents one boy's survival along the Norwegian coast. When cholera begins to decimate his camp, he is placed in a canoe with Little Carl and told to head north and not come back. His young companion dies, and Leif buries the child with as much reverence as possible. When he looked at the items he's brought, he realizes that he had prepared for death, but as he canoes up the coast and around the islands, he learns to survive by watching the balance between the orcas, dolphins, ravens, and other wildlife,  and he wants to be part of the balance. This was Paulsen's last book, and it is an ode to his Norwegian roots. Beautiful. Thank you Farrar Straus Giroux and Netgalley for the e-galley
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No one writes an adventure story like Gary Paulsen. Hatchet is very popular right now. This story will captivate the readers just as much if not more. I love the setting, the characters and the adventure.
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This middle grade novel set along the coast of Norway appealed to me because
a) the author
b) the setting (both my grandparents were from Norway. How utterly wonderful to have a book set in the beautiful Nordic outdoors)
C) the cover art is stunning

This both was and was not what I expected. I expected a novel following a lone character, experiencing the sea and coast the way Hatchet covers the forest (per the flap description). And it was this. I was surprised by the sad melancholy beginnings to this boy, Leif. After finishing, I can see how it is partly necessary background to his character transformation throughout the book. Although he is the lone human for the bulk of the book, we see his character develop dramatically. We also see beautiful descriptions of the natural world. However, there are many descriptions that involve blood and sickness and I didn’t like to read explicitly of it… and wonder if a 10 year old would? The beginning was, for me, too dark feeling and a tad too graphic.

The writing is lyrical, almost poetic. There is both a simplicity and a song-style to the writing and I thought it worked well for this type of story. I enjoyed the author’s note in the back for the extra information.

This is a slower paced book that will appeal to those who love nature and enjoy character growth.


*I was provided with a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.
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I'll admit, this was a total cover request - that cover is gorgeous! - but if I'd been able to read a sample first, I wouldn't have requested this book as I cannot get on with the style.
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